A recent decision handed down by the federal Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit will likely make it a lot simpler for employees who are victims of discrimination to take their claims to the steps of the courthouse.
The case, which affects Colorado employees, was discrimination-lawsuits">watershed in that the thinking for over a generation has been that employees wanting to file federal discrimination claims must first take their matters before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or EEOC, and secure a letter giving the employee leave to sue. If an employee did not do this, then a federal court could dismiss the case for lack of jurisdiction.
Under this new rule, which pertained specifically to disability discrimination, an employee need not go through the EEOC prior to getting his or her case heard in court. Those who reported on the case expect this new ruling to apply to other types of discrimination as well.
Although an employee still is supposed to go through the EEOC first, it is now incumbent on the employer to raise the issue with the court once the case is in process. Perhaps more importantly, it is incumbent upon the employer to prove the employee did not take this step, and the employee may have an opportunity to explain why before the court can cut off the employee's case.
As is often the case, some Denver residents might see this is as a small victory. However, it is an important development for employees, particularly those who may for good reasons not have first brought their claims to the attention of the EEOC.